It was instinct, it was what had to be done.
It took just a few minutes, but those minutes saved the life of Brady Hobbins and a lifetime of memories.
For his actions during those few minutes Gary Huxtable, 43, received the Vital Link Award from the B.C. Ambulance Service which recognizes the significant contributions made by citizens during medical emergencies.
As any true hero, Huxtable deflects the attention, he acknowledges the work of first responders and the doctors and how the outcome could have been different if the stars had not lined up just right on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2011.
It was a sunny afternoon.
Lisa Huxtable and her husband Brian Hobbins, from Cold Lake, Alta., were visiting her brother Gary and his wife Stefanie at their property on Tyhee Lake, when an afternoon of reminiscing and laughter was interrupted by the barking of the Hobbins’ border collie, Tika.
Sensing something wasn’t right, the four ran outside to find 18-month-old Brady Hobbins, who only minutes earlier had been sleeping in a trailer parked behind the house at some distance from the lake, was no longer there.
“He’d never crawled out before,” Lisa said.
A frantic search eventually led to the lake and a parent’s worst nightmare, Brady was partly submerged in the shallow waters.
Brian jumped into the waist deep water, collected Brady and began CPR.
“He didn’t have a pulse, he was unresponsive and completely white,” Gary said of his first observations when he arrived at the dock.
Remembering the moment, Gary pauses, trying to keep the difficult emotions at bay before he continues.
“I didn’t think the outcome was going to be good,” he added of the moment that would later keep him awake at night for several days as he pondered the worst-case scenario.
Fearing the worst, Gary, who spent 10 years with the Smithers Fire Department, took over, not wanting his brother-in-law to feel responsible for the loss of his own son.
“It was tough to stay composed,” Gary admitted as his previous training swirled through his head, reminding him not to over-compress.
He performed six full sets of CPR and then, at long last, Brady took a breath.
Brady was still unconscious when a second star lined up in his favour.
The Telkwa Volunteer Fire Department, training not too far away at Eddy Park with all of their rescue gear, heard the dispatch for the ambulance and arrived on scene in less than 10 minutes with Michael Dupuis, a volunteer firefighter and a registered nurse who knew exactly what to do.
Corey Kortmeyer, chief of the Telkwa Fire Department, who nominated Gary for the award, remembers the incident clearly and the emotion of the day still wells up in his voice.
“It was a pretty tough weekend until we found out he was OK,” Kortmeyer said as he fought back tears.
Another star lined up for Brady as an ambulance was travelling through Telkwa when the call for help came in and arrived just minutes after the fire department.
“It makes your heart skip a beat, having a child call is always stressful,” ambulance attendant Donna Davidson said of the call from dispatch.
But when Davidson and her partner Diane Barton arrived on scene their worst fears were assuaged when they heard Brady breath, albeit with difficulty and crying.
“I remember thinking, ‘Yes’,” Davidson recalled.
Davidson notified physicians at the Bulkley Valley Regional Hospital of Brady’s condition and they were ready when he arrived, his skin and lips tinged with blue.
Dr’s. Morsey, Strauss and Schaefer all had a hand in helping Brady survive the early hours of his near-drowning.
To minimize any potential impacts on his brain, the doctor’s put Brady in a drug-induced coma and, about five hours after he was plucked from the lake, Brady was airlifted to the B.C. Children’s Hospital.
“The doctors were good,” Gary said with a tone of gratitude.
Soon after his arrival at the hospital Brady woke up from his coma acting as if nothing had happened.
“He was chatty and flirting with the nurses,” Lisa said of the moment she knew everything was going to be okay.
“It was a good day,” Kortmeyer said, acknowledging the efforts of all involved that contributed to saving the life of Brady.
Everything that needed to go right, did go right that afternoon, but for the first responders and Lisa the most important part is the first few minutes, the minutes when Gary brought Brady back to life.
“That’s what big brothers do,” Lisa said.
“He’s a hero.”